The entire Archuleta County landfill was on fire Monday night.
Christina Kraetsch, deputy director of emergency operations for the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, said a report came in around 6:45 p.m. Monday that smoke was visible near the landfill, about 10 miles south of Pagosa Springs on Trujillo Road (County Road 500).
First responders arrived on scene to find the entire dump site on fire, Kraetsch said. She estimated the fire to be about 2 acres in size.
Firefighters spent the entire night trying to contain the blaze, an effort that was to continue Tuesday. Kraetsch said the public should stay away from the area, and personnel on scene trying to extinguish the fire are taking safety precautions, such as wearing face masks.
“It’s not good,” she said. “Definitely, the smoke and all the chemicals are not healthy to breathe in.”
Kraetsch said the county landfill usually catches fire once a year. But this fire is the largest she has seen in the 10 years she has worked for the Sheriff’s Office.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but typically, Kraetsch said, chemicals or other materials people dump, sometimes even hot coals, can start a burn in the trash dump. In some instances, fires are burning beneath the layers of trash before eventually rising to the surface.
Because of the size of the fire, and the amount of heat it was putting off, Kraetsch couldn’t say when emergency responders expect to extinguish the trash fire.
In the meantime, the landfill is closed. While the area isn’t surrounded by too many homes, Kraetsch advised those who live near the dump to shut their windows or, if they are experiencing health issues, leave until the fire is put out.
“There aren’t too many people and houses directly next to it, but obviously, smoke travels,” she said. “So the farther away the better.”